A man walks through a single-family home neighborhood in Los Angeles last week. The CDC announced a new temporary deportation ban a few days after the previous one expired. // AFP via Getty Images, Frédéric J. Brown
For many Americans, COVID-19 has turned their lives upside down: they lost their jobs, and with it, the ability to pay their rent.
While eviction is usually traumatic, eviction during a pandemic adds new layers of peril: Evicted families may double up with other households or move to overcrowded shelters. This can lead the coronavirus to spread rapidly, especially within vulnerable communities.
These concerns underpin the CDC’s new moratorium on evictions announced this week.
“I think there is a moral imperative here to ensure that the people who are housed unstably at a time when we have extraordinary transmission of the disease in many parts of this country – that they do This is a real threat to public health and we need to keep people stably housed, ”CDC director Rochelle Walensky told NPR.
Here’s what the new ban means for the millions of tenants facing eviction and landlords awaiting cash.
How this ban is different
The CDC’s new 60-day order is a little different from the old one that began last year: it only applies to counties where COVID-19 transmission is significant or high. That includes most of the country right now.
The agency’s authority for such a ban stems from the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which gives the Department of Health and Human Services (of which the CDC is a part) the power to declare and respond to health emergencies. public and communicable disease control.
The previous deportation ban was announced by the CDC in September 2020, under the Trump administration, and was extended in March and June of this year. But it expired on July 31 after the Supreme Court signaled it would not accept any further extensions without Congressional permission, and Congress did not decide to extend it.
President Biden says he’s not sure the CDC’s new order will survive possible legal challenges – but he hopes it will provide those on the verge of deportation some breathing space.
“By the time it is litigated, it will probably give a little more time, as we distribute this $ 45 billion to people who are in fact behind on rent and don’t have the money,” a- he said this week.
If you are looking for help paying your rent, this page has tips when requesting emergency rental assistance.
A temporary reprieve – and a big push to distribute rental aid
The CDC’s new ban is only temporary – it is set to expire on October 3. Still, this is a crucial extension for low-income renters.
“This is a huge relief for the millions of people who were on the verge of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. A declaration.
Federal aid has been slow so far, although it is starting to flow faster. Part of the problem was that states and localities were required to set up their own programs to disburse the funds.
The White House has urged state and local governments to effectively distribute funds to tenants and their landlords, and to be flexible with documentation. The Treasury, which administers the emergency rental assistance program, promotes “promising practices” seen across the country for eviction hijacking.
But the application process was cumbersome in many places.
Some communities have demanded tons of paperwork and 30- or 40-page requests, Yentel told NPR – “slowing down the process for everyone and often eliminating some of the poorest and most marginalized tenants who can’t. producing the documentation is necessary in other communities.
States and communities are struggling with capacity, Yentel said: “They don’t have enough people. They don’t have the right technology to be able to handle the deluge of apps they receive. And the more complicated they are. their programs, the more capacity issues they face. “
The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities
Louisiana is among the states with the highest rates of COVID-19 right now, as a possible deportation crisis looms.
“People are worried. They are terrified,” says Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. “We have a huge population of people who are struggling to stay afloat during this… pandemic. “
Tenants in the state have few protections, she says, and evictions can happen quickly – formally through the courts and informally when tenants move out after receiving an eviction notice.
She says New Orleans neighborhoods with high eviction rates before the pandemic are the same ones that were marked three generations ago, and are currently experiencing high numbers of COVID cases and deaths. 19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has just exacerbated these unfair housing outcomes that were already present. And the people with the least resources and defenses are the people most affected by this pandemic. that injustice after injustice builds up on each other for these communities, ”Hill told NPR.
The state has received $ 550 million to help tenants and landlords, according to the Associated Press. The governor said Louisiana has so far approved $ 61 million in rent assistance.
As time is running out for many tenants in arrears, states have time to distribute the funds as the ERAP program runs until 2025.
Homeowners sue government over previous ban
The National Apartment Association represents owners and operators of rental housing – landlords, in other words. Last week, the association filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the previous eviction ban, seeking to recover damages on behalf of rental housing providers.
He also opposes the new ban, which he calls an unfunded government mandate.
“We think that [eviction moratoria] leave tenants with insurmountable debt, and vendors are essentially bagging the affordability crisis by carrying all that unpaid debt as they try to pay their bills, ”Greg Brown, senior vice president of business governments of the NAA, says NPR.
Brown says rental debt keeps rising – beyond what Congress has appropriated – as the ban continues. “If we don’t meet housing providers, the future of housing in this country, rental housing in this country becomes even more in jeopardy,” he says.
Federal aid has started to flow to landlords to cover tenant debts, he notes. Now, he says, “we need to focus on speeding up the flow.”
New deportation ban could be subject to legal challenges
The more limited framing of the new ban – applicable only to counties with higher levels of coronavirus transmission – may help it survive possible legal challenges.
Steve Vladeck is a professor at the University of Texas Law School and an expert in federal courts. He suspects that the CDC’s breadth of authority is likely to be at the center of any legal challenge against the new ban.
“I think the Department of Justice will have a very good argument that this one is… much more specifically related to [the] The CDC’s express statutory authority to take action to prevent the spread of communicable diseases like the Delta variant of COVID, ”he told NPR.
On the flip side, Vladeck says, the court’s conservative justices could decide the CDC has pushed its authority too far and repeal the new moratorium.
Either way, millions of tenants are hoping that the help they desperately need arrives before an eviction notice.